Crafted Vancouver showcases authenticity in artisanal creation

Month-long fest focuses on the richness of a hand-crafted continuum

Crafted Vancouver: Made to be Discovered, various locations through May 30. For more information visit See photos:

Carrie Ross looks up from her corner table in a café and experiences a mild but distinct feeling: expected disappointment.

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It’s like finding gridlock at rush hour or realizing the milk carton that was mostly empty in the morning is still mostly empty in the evening.

“Is anything in here handcrafted?” Ross asks, glancing at the lights hanging from the ceiling. “I don’t think so.”

Until May 30, Ross and her team of Crafted Vancouver volunteers are focused on putting handmade work in the public eye.

The night before our interview Ross dropped Mexican artists off at the airport. Immediately after our interview she’ll try to catch up with an artist at The Pipe Shop in North Vancouver, all while managing the festival’s social media – a task left to Ross following the recent departure of an administrative assistant.

“It would be fantastic if we got some funding down the road so we can get paid. We have a festival manager and I’m amazed she’s still with me,” she says.

Now in its second year, Crafted Vancouver is at least one year away from being offered any federal grants, Ross says. In the meantime, they’re scraping by on in-kind sponsorship.

“We’re a non-profit so our budget is really limited,” she says. “I think that’s the nature of festivals. . . . Until you get some decent funding or sponsorship it’s really tough.”

But despite the challenges and the toll they take (Ross says she’s averaging three or four hours of sleep a night) she’s resolute in her mission.

“It’s my puny little arm wrestle with the world,” she says.

In part, Crafted Vancouver exists to pull artisans from near-anonymity.

“You don’t have to seek them out,” Ross says. “We’re doing all the work for you.”

If appreciating craft sounds like sorting your recycling or folding the laundry, Ross is adamant it’s supposed to be fun.

Crafted Vancouver
Crafted Vancouver, Made to be Discovered, runs through May 30 at various locations around Vancouver. - Cindy Goodman, North Shore News

On May 30, the curious and thirsty can tour designer and sculptor Brent Comber’s North Vancouver studio. After a chat with Comber about art and his plans for large cedar crown, Jamie Johnson is set to guide guests through the history of single-malt scotch whisky. Visitors will also get to taste that history from cups made by Granville Island glass artist Benjamin Kikkert.

Just a little way across the bridge, sharp-eyed visitors can see a kitchen knife demonstration hosted by Douglas Chang at Ai & Om Knives on Pender Street. The event also offers insight into the work of Japan’s blacksmiths.

The festival also includes a two nights of short films screened at the Reliance Theatre at Emily Carr University.

On May 24, viewers are treated to international short films chronicling craft around the world. Generally, the films explore the definition of craft why some people feel compelled to partake.

The following night focuses largely on B.C. artists as well as props builder and costume maker Aaron Harrison, who is set to contemplate his life and legacy following a near fatal heart attack.

The film, Ross says, explores the collision of life and Hollywood deadlines.

“This is the only festival of its kind in North America,” Ross says, noting the exhibition feature a good sampling of what she calls the craft continuum.

There are ancestral art forms like the Coast Salish art of cedar basket weaving, she says. But there’s also “new craft,” Ross notes, discussing the Material Matters Research Centre at Emily Carr where designers might incorporate 3D printings into handmade work.

“It’s not necessarily that you have to have been a craft artist for a number of years, it really has to do with what you’re making,” Ross says. “There are the most amazing travelling exhibitions of craft that this city never sees,” she says. “The galleries just don’t bring in these exhibitions. And I want to change that.”

There is a need to protect authentic work, Ross says.

“What’s happening a lot in Europe in some of the bigger cities is that the authentic craftspeople are getting pushed out,” she says.

Ross cites the made-in-China Venetian mask as an example of importing mass produced craft at the expense of local artists.

One of the festival’s aim is to show young people and craft enthusiasts that, if you have the skill, being an artisan is a “viable career path,” Ross says.

But again, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, she says.

One of the signature events is Crafted in the Valley. The daylong trip includes a stop at von Hardenberg Candles in Maple Ridge and Cathy Terepocki Studio in Chilliwack followed by a visit to Whispering Horse Winery.

“It’s a really good day,” she says. “You don’t have to do anything.”


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